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08 June 2023

Gulf funds eye Princes Street takeover

By Parag Deulgaonkar



Sovereign funds from the Gulf countries have shown interest in buying the whole of Princes Street – Scotland’s most famous shopping avenue – for £1.35 billion (Dh9.75bn).

Global locations such as Edinburgh’s Princes Street are a magnet for well-heeled tourists from around the world for its mix of big-brand department stores, according to a report in the Edinburgh-based newspaper Scotland on Sunday.


A takeover of the whole street would reduce the number of owners and help the City of Edinburgh Council towards its goal of turning it into a world-class attraction. The street is home to famous names such as Jenners, Marks & Spencer, and a host of other high-street chains, as well as smaller shops and offices, the paper said.


“There are people talking to us with access to sovereign funds. They have large amounts of wealth,” the newspaper quoted Tom Buchanan, the council’s economic development leader, as saying. Asked whether there were funds interested in buying the whole street, he replied: “Yes, that’s something we are in talks about.”


Although the funds have not been named, the nations with the biggest investment vehicles include the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar. “They are looking to invest that cash in foreign countries and the UK has always been seen as a steady investment home. The UK is looking good value for money now,” property expert Keith Dobson, head of Edinburgh Commercial, said.


The most expensive locations are those blocks towards the east end of the city centre, nearest to the development of the St James Centre and of St Andrew Square.


Commercial property experts estimate each of the seven blocks along Princes Street could command between £100 million and £150m on the open market, leading to a total of around £1.35bn. Two “small-sized” shops – the Orange shop at 133 Princes Street and the T-Mobile store at No 21 – are going up for sale for  £4m each this week.


Many of the buildings on Princes Street are owned by external investment companies, the most prominent of which include The Equitable Life Assurance Society, Prudential Investment Managers and F&C Commercial Property Trust Limited. Altogether, these organisations own approximately 85 per cent of the buildings on Princes Street.